Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Neither Rhyme nor Reason

Jack was dumbfounded. He had received an email from Jill. He didn’t want to hear from her. They had had a short and sweet liaison a few months back. She was still in but ending a thirty-year relationship.  She worked. These were two strikes against her, the relationship and she worked. It would have been uphill, but Jack dabbled a bit, a half dozen times at least, with Jill. She was seeing a psychologist about the ending of that long relationship and she emphasized to Jill that hooking up with Jack was a bad idea. Jack agreed with the psychologist, but couldn’t break the connection easily or soon enough. He broke two of his rules; she was that enticing. Because she worked at odd hours, breaking up with her became easier than not.
One day, Jack bit the bullet and locked his doors and stayed out of sight the next time she came up the hill. He tweeted her and told her to go away and to leave him alone. He advised her to follow her psychologist’s advice and spend time alone with herself for a while rather than jumping into a relationship and bed with another man so soon. Jill hung around for a while in her car texting him with frantic appeals but then finally left and drove down the hill and out of sight.  Jack has a trouble with face to face, except in wooing and in bed. When he wants out, he goes digital. Jill understood this, so she sent Jack a long email. Reading the email took Jack time, since he had developed serious limitations on how long he would spend on a post. He didn’t have the ability to read long articles and posts any more. He gave up books and magazines months ago because they demanded too much time from him to read. It took him two days to read the long email, just once. He was going to print it out, but his printer was out of ink and he hadn’t used it in so long he wondered if it still worked and if he could even get ink for it. The printer was a dinosaur.
A few days later, maybe a week, Jack sheepishly responded with an email that took him days to write.

Jill,
I loved reading your email, a number of times, Jill. I’m so happy at where you are and what you are doing and why you are doing it -- for you, Jill. Yes, after a long relationship with a man, I knew you and I were a long time away that is why I behaved as I did, as badly as it was. I hated myself for it, but it had to be done. You needed separation, complete and for a long time for your sake, Jill. You don’t need to get back in the saddle so quickly again. I think you have realized that and are appreciating it and living that life now, Jill. I love your plans to spend it in the Mideast and to do these wonderful things for yourself and others, to get out of your “comfort zone.”  I love hearing about you reaching back in your life, when you were most happy and using that energy and exercise to help you find yourself and your center, Jill. I love and cherish the time we spent together, the life we put back into each other’s lives, and the love we shared. That time woke me up, excited me, and returned me to a place I had missed and abandoned. We were good for each other at crucial times in our lives.
After that heartbreaking day and you drove away, Jill, I cried.
A few days later I was cleaning out a closet, I found some remnants of Mary’s. I had to stop and take a breath. I was overwhelmed. Slowly I held them, fondled them, and remembered them longingly, and everything came back to me, my love for Mary and how much I missed her. She had just moved to a sheep farm in Oregon. I emailed her about the memories and asked if she wanted the remnants back. In a short curt email reply, she said no. I was hurt, but let it go. I flew to Oregon, rented a car, and drove to that sheep farm in Oregon. We have reunited.
Jill, you are responsible for this renewed love, thank you. Gloria thanks you, too, Jill.  I told her all about us, because she asked. Timing is everything, Jill, and our time was short and sweet, but not to be because of too many other issues. You need this time to be alone to renew yourself. I can only hope that as you rise from your fall, you find a person you can love, Jill, who loves you back. I hope you find that happiness you so deserve.  I enjoyed climbing that hill with you, Jill.
Jack

You may not know Jack, but you may know someone like Jack. We, his friends, always wonder what happened to him, how could he be so successful with women when he is such a cad. Yet Jack always had a woman on his arm. Jack was always an interesting guy to talk with because he read lots and knew so much. When he stopped reading, we thought he must have gotten a knock on the head. Once he stopped reading, he depended on Twitter and Jack became a very dull boy. We never had conversations any more, Jack and me. He became very uninteresting, limited to a smaller vocabulary, and he repeated himself constantly. He wasn’t forty yet and yet he was an old man already, mumbling, bumbling, stumbling, and tumbling. His thumbs became the strongest part of his hands and his other digits useless, as pints and pails would fall from his hands. In fact he had lost that grip in his handshake for which he was famous. Jack became a twit.
I lost touch with Jack.  And Jill and I have become lovers.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett


Commonwealth by Ann Patchett like any good story always starts out with a bottle of something. It this novel it is a bottle of gin, a big bottle of gin. There are cops and firemen and DA’s, oh my. The core of the novel revolves around two families (Albert and Beverly Cousins and Fix and Teresa Keating), six children (two boys and four girls) and wife swapping. This story is about the six children and the action mostly takes place in California and in the Commonwealth of Virginia, while Chicago, Brooklyn, Amagansett, and Switzerland make cameo appearances. “In Virginia, the six children had shared two bedrooms and a single cat, picked food from one another’s plates and indiscriminately used the same bath towels, but in California everything was separate. Holly and Cal and Albie and Jeanette (Cousins) had never been never been invited to Fix Keating’s house, just as Caroline and Franny (Keating) had never been seen where Teresa Cousins lived.”
Fix and Beverly end up with each other in Virginia. They eventually divorce and move on while Bert and Teresa follow separate paths. They all get along to some degree, but not like the kids who become thick as thieves.
Tragedy besets them when Cal dies and the story is about that event and how each child remembers it and shares it later in life with each other and their parents. Each of the kids has his or her own problems as would be expected. As they all get to adulthood, some with kids, some through multiple marriages, and different professions, they each get closer because of Cal. Franny seems to be the narrator for most of the story especially when she hooked up with a famous author and told him the story of her childhood, which he turned into a very successful novel, Commonwealth, followed by a movie much to the families anger. Albie was the most troubled of the six children with the book. This is like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a play within a play, but here is a book and movie within a book.
As the children tend to their aging and dying parents, the stories they speak of revolve around their childhood and particularly around the events surrounding Cal’s death. The reader is constantly hard pressed to keep up with all the familial intrigue, as if Patchett simply wrote chapters, took those chapters and threw them in the air and placed them in the order in which they landed.  Within time, it becomes easier and the reader becomes one of the family in the end if this if the end.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Letter Writer by Dan Fesperman


The Letter Writer by Dan Fesperman pairs an unlikely duo, in this fascinating historical fiction happening in NYC in 1942. These strange bedfellows uncover truths about and espionage during the opening chapters of WWII. “The past wasn’t something left behind. It was a parasite in the bloodstream, a congenital disorder. You could only hope that others wouldn’t spot the symptoms.” One is a transplanted cop from NC, Woodrow Cain, who has a protective “rabbi” in NYC and the other is a multilingual letter writer in the Lower East Side, Danzinger. Because Danzinger knows the darkest secrets of his non-English speaking recent immigrant clients, he can be useful to Cain, as he must solve crimes in NYC. A recent event, the burning of the SS Normandie, helps things get convoluted and dicey for this pair as well as for the officials of NYC and national security. We are in a hectic time with Nazi sympathizers in Yorkville, Japanese internment beginning, mobs running the docks, Ellis Island used to deport now instead of take in newly arrived immigrants, and police in over their heads.  It seems strange to find this odd couple, each with varied and sordid pasts, working together to find difficult solutions as they are constantly looking over their shoulders. The Police and the mob work together to form a union to root out saboteurs in the docks and to help watch for submarines along the shorelines. It is an unholy union, but a necessary one.
“Who are we to trust, then? And when events inevitably turn for the worse, who are we to blame? When you are born in one homeland, and then move to another, and the two become mortal enemies, who can say for sure where your loyalties will reside? Those are the questions which press upon our souls.”
Danzinger’s past begins when he first arrives in America and then he loses his parents in the PS General Slocum tragedy of 1904. He takes up with the likes of a young Meyer Lansky and others associated with Murder Inc. He escapes this old life and begins his new life as a letter writer in 1928, but in 1942 he is discovered. He and Cain are scrambling to make it all make sense with bad guys, good guys, and the navy seeming to be in bed with each other for the war effort and in the name of patriotism. Of course this complicates things for our dynamic duo, who are the fictional characters in this well-done historical fiction novel that provides some interesting facts about those early years of the war.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Electoral College

Today is an important day for the Electoral College. Please make America proud again. I hope it takes its charge very seriously and remembers what the Founding Fathers intended when the Electoral College was created. I know I don’t know how the Electoral College works, but I do know it exists for the reason America finds itself in today, December 19, 2016. This may be the very situation our Founding Fathers imagined when it created the Electoral College. Only the presidential election uses the Electoral College to determine the winner; it does not use the popular vote, like every other contest in this country. I know in the last five presidential elections, including this one, the Electoral College has gotten it wrong 40% of the time. Perhaps after today we should seriously consider eliminating the Electoral College, in a correct constitutional way, as has been proposed by Congressman Rangel and Senator Boxer. But that is not the matter to consider today.
Today the Electoral College is meeting to make the final confirming vote for the President of the United States. I hope it considers why it exists when it votes: to be thoughtful, consider all the facts, vote its conscience, and act according to the will of the people. I hope it considers what the projected winning candidate said to the Russians about hacking his opponent’s email, and then they did it and helped spread lies to confuse the voting public. But the public wasn’t fooled or conned or duped since she won the popular vote, the people’s choice. I hope this body considers how the projected victor lies, intentionally says the wrong things, does the wrong things, acts badly, flip flops on issues, and is unfit to hold the position of the most powerful person in the world. I hope the Electoral College considers the conflicts of interest this man would have all over the world with his own business empire.
The Founding Fathers assumed (I know about this word assume) the president would divest himself of conflicts of interest, but this president elect has not done this. Every other elected person in this country has to divulge tax returns and break business connections to hold that elected office, but not the president. Our president elect is taking advantage of these assumed matters of ethics to eventually line his own pockets at the expense of the American people. He lacks the ethics and appropriate conscience to be President of the United States.
I hope the Electoral College seriously and patriotically considers all the facts, not the fake news concerned with this rather bizarre election year and brings us back to reality, as was the intended purpose of the Founding Fathers when they created the Electoral College. I hope the Electoral College sends the election of our next president to the Congress so the people’s representatives can have a second look at the election of 2016.
When we watch a sporting event now, we are used to video review to determine if a referee’s call in a game is correct or not. We use that time to review a play so as to fix it or to confirm it. If we take calls in a game this seriously, I hope the Electoral College takes the challenge to review the election of 2016 as seriously to allow the Congress to consider and to look more closely at the presidential election of 2016. Let’s hope our Electoral College uses its intelligence and constitutional mandate to demand an examination of this very important matter, the presidential election of 2016 and America’s future, which isn’t a game, it’s real.
The Russian connection should be enough to make this decision more clear and obvious. That the president elect asked the Russians to hack his opponent should be enough for the Electoral College to rethink the outcome. It would send a real message to our people, the world, and to Russia; we are not going to allow a foreign country, especially Russia, influence our elections. That the runner up in the presidential election won the popular vote should give pause for reconsideration. The American people have thrown a red flag to ask for a review. It is now a vote of conscience in light of what is known in the aftermath of a contentious election cycle. Please make America proud again, by allowing us to have a rethink in our Congress, an open conversation in Congress of the people, by the people, for the people.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I often wake up in the middle of the night

I often wake up in the middle of the night. I don’t sleep through the night much anymore. I used to sleep through the night. Now I wake up because I’m cold or I’m hot. In winter I may have kicked off the covers in my sleep, I wake up shivering and sometimes take a hot shower to get the heat back. In summer I may wake in a pool of sweat and take a cool shower to refresh myself. Often I wake up because I’m thirsty, a medication dehydrate me. Sometimes I wake up to pee more than once in the night. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night for something more than the physical reasons like being too hot or too cold or thirsty or having to pee. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night because of what’s on my mind.
Many years ago when I taught drama, we did a play called, “Sometimes I Wake Up in the Middle of the Night.” After the class read the play, many wanted to right their own scene and did. Our production was moving and very memorable. Now, I’m finding myself writing a different scene every night. After I’ve woken up, I find myself lying in bed thinking. I used to sleep with a pad and pencil next to the bed so I could leave myself a note for the morning. It was useful when I taught. Now the thoughts are more involved and require I get up and fire up the computer. It may be something I need to Google like a fact I need to confirm, discover, or verify. It might be to identify a character in a dream or follow up on a dreamscape. Sometimes it is to edit something I’m writing or begin something I will write. It may be something as simple as a shopping list or a to do list or an idea I’ve been mulling over and come to a solution. Even though I often wake up, I always go back to sleep. But before I do, I always make my oatmeal, so it is ready for my morning tea and is creamy when I finally wake up for the day and make breakfast and enjoy that moment of peace.
Waking up now isn’t as bad as it was when I was younger. I don’t have to get up to go to work, now. I can sleep in satisfied that I responded to the call of waking up, dealt with it, and find solace before falling back to sleep again. When I was younger, I didn’t find that solace. Experience, too, helps in resolving the middle of the night ruminations. I’m finding that I look forward to waking at odd hours and contemplating things and then acting on them by writing so that when I do wake up later, I have something to review and edit. My dreams are more detailed and I remember them more clearly and they lay the foundation of something that is on my mind and then expressed through the keyboard. I have to follow the white rabbit down the hole. I wake now: anxious, excited, worried, confused, or in any number of moods. Now I can approach them, calm them, satiate them, and work them out to the point I can peacefully go back to sleep.
If I don’t write, I may finish a television program I previous saved on DVR and watch it. It may be just that unfinished program that has woken me. That’s always an easy fix. With all the choices now on television and especially with the too many simultaneous shows on, the DVR is perfect to solve conflicts in making choices. If I don’t watch television, I simply pick up the latest book I’m reading and continue. I always look forward to moving on in a book, which may be a reason I wake up. Sometimes I wake up to find the book lying opened on top of me ready to be continued. As with the DVR, I use the rewind feature to refresh my memory about a show, so I turn back a few pages to refresh the story.
When I wake in the middle of the night, it may be that I’ve had enough sleep. I may have taken a nap or gone to bed real early. Waking in the middle of the night doesn’t provide the terror it used to when I was younger and needed to sleep so I could perform better at work. Waking in the middle of the night was more anxiety ridden when I was younger than it is now, because I can go back to sleep or not and take a nap or go to bed early that night. I have more choices. Even if the reason I wake is that I have a problem, I can take the time to think about it and perhaps resolve it, or simply assuage myself to an eventual solution. When I was younger, I didn’t have that time nor the experience to deal with it. Then I only had a pad and pencil, now I have a computer to pour my thoughts into and address my demons.
Perhaps waking up in the middle of the night is our muse. I found that to be so with my young students as they wrote their scenes for their performance of waking up in the middle of the night. Waking in the middle of the night is my muse now.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Beauty, A Wicked Sleeping Beauty Tale by Sarah Pinborough


Beauty, A Wicked Sleeping Beauty Tale by Sarah Pinborough reminds me of Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre from the eighties. Duvall’s tales were a fanciful, more politically correct take on the classic fairy tales than are Pinborough’s, which take a darker turn with some fun surprises.
As the title states, Beauty is a wicked tale that explores the darker side in all of us. What makes this tale wonderful is that it takes the original premise, strips away the shallowness and the lies, to expose the dark side, to let the good win as in should without the usual magic associated with fairy tales. There is some magic in the tale. What would a fairy tale be if we didn’t have some magic in it? Sleeping Beauty is not who she seems to be and when the prince comes to wake her with a kiss, Rumplestiltskin, yes he is in this tale, is furious because his plan has been destroyed by “Prince Charming.” Be warned that Pinborough takes many liberties, which are wonderful, wickedly twisted, and surprising.
The prince is anything but charming. The prince is slovenly, a drunk, a philanderer, and not kingly material.  His royal parents are worried, so they send him on a quest, an adventure. There is a parallel to Shakespeare’s Prince Hal in Henry IV, part I. Henry IV is not happy with Hal’s behavior or friends and needs more from the future king, who will be Henry V. That’s where the similarity ends. In Beauty, the best young huntsman in the kingdom accompanies the prince. They are charged to see what is behind the forest of woods and brambles growing just outside their kingdom. Legend tells them there is an abandoned kingdom behind the wall of brambles and riches may be found. Just outside the wall of brambles a little old grandma, Rapunzel, lives with her goats and a big bad wolf is threatening her. The duo attempt to save her but bungle it, only to be saved by grandma’s granddaughter, Petra, who joins them on the adventure, because she is lured to the wall by a howling she hears from the other side and answers it with her own howling to create beautiful music. Grandma wears the dead wolf pelt to protect her while the trio set off on their adventure. Petra is Pinborough’s creation.
Once through the thicket they discover a different world and this is where Pinborough weaves a most fanciful tale of lust, greed, and wicked justice. The political intrigue is wonderfully reflective of our own times.  It has to make me wonder if things ever do change or is it just the same old same old always? The story of duplicity occurs with all characters and we are hard pressed to wonder who to trust. But all that becomes very clear as we reach the denouement. The details of the happy ending were surprising and enjoyable as we find all is right with the world after all, in spite of spells and magic. The question left for us: Is the prince king material, does he transform into Henry V? This is a fun read on a cold day in front of a fire and listening to the Grateful Dead’s Dire Wolf.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wood Smoke

Today I remember Rob and John.

He smelled the wood smoke before he saw the house. It brought back many memories. Funny how the olfactory glands sparked memory, fired up the brain, rekindled a childhood. The road hadn’t changed. He knew each pothole, each turn, and each rock. It had been a while, two decades since he’d been here and yet it was so unchanged. Trees were wider of girth, some were felled to protect the power lines, another hit by lightning, and some new ones just starting out. He could still name the trees he had learned as a child. He stopped at a familiar place that showed the start of a path into the woods. A path he would use to escape and to fantasize a future life or to while away the day. He built forts in those woods. He built tipis of fallen trees. He tried to assemble a treehouse in a rather massive oak, without success because he refused to use manufactured wood, just found wood. He got a platform of sorts constructed, but that was it. When he discovered a hunter used it as a blind he destroyed it. They posted the land after that.
He looked in the rearview mirror to see the dirt road he had just come down and was reminded of how he used to ride his bike on this road to escape into town or to go to a friend’s house. He loved the ruts and the hills and the turns as he pretended his bike was a motorcycle navigating a motocross course. He winced in pain as he remembered the day he came around a corner face to face with a delivery truck and ended up on the hood. His face was lacerated, his arm broken, and the front wheel of the bike destroyed. With his face pressed to the windshield, he saw the terror on the driver’s face. He then knew what terror looked like. His dad took him to the doctor’s office, admonishing him all the way for not paying attention. The bike was fixed, his arm was fixed, his face was fixed; but it was a couple of months before he was fixed and able to ride his bike again.
He turned his head to peer down the path and recalled how many times he followed it to another adventure. Sometimes he carried fresh cut limbs or took things with him in a backpack. He had this saw that folded up like a jackknife and he would use it to cut saplings or dead wood so he could construct a fort or a tipi or fashion a walking stick. He was careful what he cut. He would forge though the low brush cutting as he went to create a path, not too noticeable, but a path he knew existed. He would make turns, circle back, and go in a direction away from a final destination so as to prevent interlopers happening upon him suddenly. He learned this from the turkey he’d chased through the woods after a snow. The turkey went in circles, never a straight line and when the turkey came to a tree with a fork in it the turkey would jump through the gap so that the fox chasing it would get hung up because of its belly. This was when he realized how smart the turkey was and understood why Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird. He wondered if his paths and forts or tipis still existed.
His dad had taught him how to use a chainsaw, how to split wood, and how to stack it. They used wood from their land to heat the house. His dad wanted to use wood to cook, but his mother nixed that idea. They did have a wood stove dad would use to slow cook his venison stews and keep a kettle on to provide the needed humidity in a house that burned wood. He used the oven to heat food rather than the microwave. Dad still liked to keep a foot in the past and that stove reminded them of that. Mom liked the stove when she had a party and needed more stove space to keep things warm or to do the slow cook. But she relied on the gas stove to cook, no electric stove in this house, and the microwave to reheat her cooled coffee and make popcorn. He remembered dad taught him how to make popcorn on that stove and by the time the popcorn was ready so was the melted butter. Later he found the microwave more convenient. His dad never ate that popcorn and he found he threw away more popcorn than he ate unlike the popcorn they made on the wood stove. How and why did it taste differently?
Dad and he would go into the woods and find a tree to fell. After a careful selection, which included type of wood, always a hard wood, location within a grove of like trees so they’d be thinning one out so others could grow better, and ease of felling it. After a few years, dad would let him choose a tree. Once chosen, dad hugged the tree, mumbled something, and then started up the chainsaw. Dad taught him how to make the wedge and then make the final cut to bring the tree down with a crash and without harming its neighbors. Dad would then cut the remaining stump at ground level and the boy would place that stump in the wagon they had brought to haul back their first cuts. Dad would cut the tree into logs for easy transport back to the house for splitting. The stumps would serve as the chopping block for that tree. Dad would limb the tree and the boy would haul the limbs into the woods and pile them up for safe havens for small animals fleeing larger predators or just for homes during a winter. There were many such piles littered about the woods in various forms of decay depending upon their age. The boy used to go around in the warm days to see what critters actually took up residence. He never found any animals, but he did find remnants of nuts, animal droppings, and fur where they bedded down.
They’d haul the logs home, stack them for further cutting and then splitting. The boy learned to bury the wedge with a light tap of the maul and then in two maybe three whacks split the log. With each tree they chose a different pattern to stack the wood. Sometimes between two trees, free standing in a crisscross pattern, or the combination of the two as they built crisscrossed columns and stacked the wood between two columns. Dad rarely covered the stacks. He would use thin limbs cut to the length of the stacks and place them on top like a ridged roof so the snow would not collect on the stacks. The air would do the rest to age the wood. It was some of these limbs the boy would use to make his forts or tipis and that treehouse platform.
He sat there in the car and remembered the day he felled his first tree. As they were walking in the woods looking for the tree to fell, dad turned and said, “Today you are going to pick the tree, fell it, and then cut it up for transport.” During their previous trips, dad had gone through this process; he would talk out loud so the boy would learn the process. Dad was teaching the boy. It was similar to Samuel Clemens recalling how he became a Mississippi River boat pilot and obtained his new name, Mark Twain, in his Life on the Mississippi. The boy, like Twain and most students, listened but not as carefully as he should have. It was another reminder that we learn by doing. The boy found a tall and straight ash tree amongst many and decided this grove needed some space. Dad approved and so the boy fired up the chainsaw and cut the wedge and then made the final cut as the tree fell gracefully and softly. All went perfectly.  He cut the stump, which his dad then hauled off to the wagon. He and his dad had changed jobs. The boy proceed to limb the tree when all of a sudden he found himself lifted off the ground, out of breath, with a screaming chainsaw flying by his head, out of his hands only to land sputtering to a halt a few yards from where he ended up on his butt gasping for air. Just before the accident, he heard his dad screaming, “NO!!” The boy had made a cardinal error. He was positioned all wrong and he tried to cut a trapped limb he should never have cut. It was spring-loaded and when he cut it the cut limb sprung right at him and caught him in the chest.  It could have killed him. Father and son sat there for a while assessing the situation and dad retrieved the saw and asked if his son wanted to continue. The boy knew that when he fell off the bike, he had to get back on. He applied this logic to the chainsaw and fired it up and deconstructed that tree with respect and skill. Dad took him to the doctor to assess the damage admonishing him all the way for not paying attention. Nothing was broken, but he would be sore for a few days. He gained a special reverence for that tree as he split the wood. When he placed the first log from that tree on the fire that fall he mumbled “thank you.”
As he sat in the car, he touched his chest and remembered the pain. He felt his heart beat and smiled as he remembered the night he lost his virginity in front of the fireplace. He was a junior in high school and a popular girl took an interest in him. His parents took off to the big city two hours away for a party. They weren’t going to be home until three or four in the morning, so he decided to bring his girlfriend over to eat popcorn, watch a movie, and makeout. One thing led to another and he lost his virginity while they lay on the floor in front of a roaring fire. As he drove her home in silence, she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and told him not to worry about her getting pregnant because she was on the pill. He didn’t even think about pregnancy or any other complications that may arise. He was stunned into silence at what just happened. He didn’t know that this was the last time he’d have sex with her or any woman until he went to college. In a few days he felt itching and then saw a rash developing on his penis. He told his dad about it and dad asked his son if he had sex. The boy was embarrassed when he said yes. Dad drove him to the doctor admonishing him all the way for not paying attention. The doctor remarked at how quickly the boy had grown up and gave him some ointment and a prescription. His dad gave him a pack of condoms with the filled prescription when he came out of the drug store and told his son to use them the next time he had sex. He instructed his son to put one in his wallet, which wasn’t used until his freshman year of college when a girl put it on him so she wouldn’t get pregnant. It was much better lovemaking.  He and she had a good first semester of college. He wondered where she was now.
He had sat there long enough and resumed his journey down that familiar dirt road. When he turned the last bend in the road, he saw the house, the source of the wood smoke and smiled. He stopped the car and just watched the smoke escape the chimney, follow the ridgeline, and meander into the woods to defuse into many streams as a warning to the trees that this is what they may become one day.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Unseen World by Liz Moore


The Unseen World by Liz Moore is a fantasy.

“Virtual reality, she thought, was the unseen world. Or had the capacity to be. In fact, it could be said that all computer systems were such: universes that operated outside the realm of human experience, planets that spun continuously in some unseeable alternate stratosphere, present but undiscovered.”

Halloween, Mardi Gras, or Virtual Reality is for us to change form, shape, and identity. The Unseen World is that place too. People change names, become someone else, and yet the old self is still there, unseen. But not gone.
During a time in American history when it wasn’t safe to be who you were, people changed identities and became someone else. In a world where machines outlive their creators, we are confronted with the flaws of mankind. A daughter is the product of a surrogate mother and a scientist who isn’t who he says he is. He is a creator of humans and machines. He is flawed and yet his creations are more perfect. The daughter, too, is flawed and creates a human and a machine. Always the humans are flawed and the machines outlive the creators. And yet, it is always about humanity, even about the machines that want to be more human and the humans more machine-like. That is the story of this fantasy novel.
Life is a puzzle and this book presents many puzzles to be solved. It is a way a parent teaches the child, through a puzzle to be solved without actually providing the answers. She must discover on her own.
Many believe that specters or ghosts may surround us. We wonder about an afterlife, reincarnation, and other levels of existence. The Unseen World is such a place for us to imagine.  We assume that machines will make our lives easier and more complete, but here that is not so. This book considers the idea of humans passing on and the machines are left alone without them. The lives of the characters aren’t made easier, they are made more complicated because of the machines. People who have trouble interacting with humans make machines. The joy of this novel is watching these humans become more human and less machine like. That which is unseen is the human element, the soul, our being.
When it is just the character and the machine interacting all the wrong things happen. After all it is the human that programs the machine. When the humans interact with themselves problems are solved, dreams are realized, and life is better because they are more human than they are machine.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Make America Smart Again

Facts and Truths have taken a real hit this past election cycle. Lies dominated and directed the conversations and the results. When I taught English, my students had (139 characters) to defend their statements with at least three facts from the texts they read when they wrote their 300+ word essays. Today Twitter writers can’t defend their posts and provide facts in their allotted 140 character posts. To Make America Great Again we must Make America Smart Again. America has been dumbed down since NCLB. That president didn’t get the popular votes either and look at what happened. Before NCLB, we used essays and some Multiple Choice questions to assess our students. Since NCLB, we have seen fewer essays if not no essays and more Multiple Choice questions on our assessment tools. Analogies have been eliminated from the SAT exams. Metaphors are essential in higher order thinking. With Multiple Choice questions we lose the ability, as assessors, to see why and how a student makes a choice. With an essay we see thinking and problem solving going on. When I used Multiple Choice as assessment tools, I provided a few lines for the students to explain each of their choices. By asking for explanations, I had some access to their thinking and problem solving. The problem with Twitter, as a form of communication and as a form of media used by millions for their information, is that it is limited to 140 characters, which limits vocabulary use, as most evident in our president elects’ tweets and the lack of supporting facts. In researching the question of his vocabulary, I discovered a number of sites that deal with it and the consensus is that Trump’s vocabulary is around a fifth or sixth grade level. No wonder he has trouble reading some of our news media whose reading levels are at a higher level. (312 words)
I don’t blame Trump or his supporters; I blame our educational system. When we abandoned essays for more MC tests for our assessment tools, we began the dumbing down of America. When we stopped asking ourselves to defend and prove our points with facts, we lost an important part of our discussion. We were looking for a quick and easy way to assess and to move on. Education was taking a beating and resembled the business model of doing more in less time. It seemed as if we were in a rush to get some place quicker. Where that was and why is still unclear to me. Education takes time as does conversation and debate.
The proof of this failure is all around us. Manufacturing and industry failed in this country because workers were incapable of keeping up with the technological changes that required more education and better reading skills. Computers began replacing human workers and too many humans were incapable of interacting with these dumb computers. We see it on a daily basis when we go shopping or drive on our roads: self-check out with fewer cashiers, EZ Pass instead of toll takers, and self-serve gas pumps. Count the number of checkout lines in a store and notice how many are closed. Start at any super store, which are some of the worst employers in America. We went from a manufacturing country to a service country to a computer age self-service country in a lifetime. “Made in America” is not a common label on what we own. We changed how we interact moving from human contact to computer interfacing. Just stop and watch people walk down the street, drive a car, sit at a bar or in a restaurant, and on a date. The common element is a hand held. We are losing our humanity.
Progress demands a better education by all of us, for all of us, so we can create new kinds of jobs and then people them. We don’t have the education to do that nor the desire to be educated. I was shocked when I discovered that less than a third of Americans graduated from college. That is a very important and alarming fact. It is totally contrary to what Jefferson had expected of us as Americans. He considered education our most important tool in preserving a democracy and helped define what it meant to be an American. He started the educational system in Virginia. Just the opposite has happened.  I am still shocked at how the Rust Belt couldn’t retool and go from mining and producing one industry of energy to producing another form of energy: coal to solar and wind. Other countries have done it well, smoothly, efficiently, and successfully.  So what kind of jobs will Trump provide?
Twitter and Facebook are the new tools and are responsible for the continued dumbing down of America. Posts on these two sites are not fact checked, are not written from authority, and are pure opinion. It takes time and work, some times hard work, to write an essay that is fact based, researched, read and reread as opposed to tweets that are opinion or gut feelings or rumors that are too quickly posted. A friend of mine read me a post from one of his friends, who was a Trump supporter. The post had more than a few incorrect statements. The most glaring mistake was “the people spoke when they elected Trump.” Actually, the people spoke and voted for Clinton and not Trump. The Electoral College elected Trump. No one corrected this incorrect statement and the continuing conversation with other “friends” merely allowed this incorrect fact to continue uncorrected.  A non-truth became a truth in their minds. When I suggested to my friend he write and point out this incorrect fact, he said he didn’t want to embarrass his friend and would do it when he sees him.  YIKES!!!  The poster has already embarrassed himself and the others who failed to do the fact checking and have perpetuated a lie that has become a truth to them. This is how we got here folks. Don’t let facts get in the way of friendship or the truth. Peer review has to work better.
How is Trump going to fix those workers’ lives that work less than forty hours a week, not allowing them benefits, so employers save money?  How is he going to help those workers who have two or more jobs and still can’t make ends meet because employers want to save money and keep most of it for themselves? How is he going to put more Americans to work when they can’t read well enough to get these jobs that require some education. Coal isn’t coming back. We have to retool and that is going to require education, a better education than two thirds of Americans have. Trump can’t fix this. He settled a lawsuit brought against Trump University, so he clearly has little knowledge about education. Americans have to fix this by staying in school or by going back to school. Perhaps he should consider free education.
To be great we need to be smart. We can’t blame others for our woes; we have to blame ourselves. Heck, the immigrants have always outworked the Americans already here. That’s history folks. Just look back on our history to see how the immigrants built America. Upon retirement I reflected on my career in education and one insight was that I found myself far more impressed with the industry of my public school students than with my private school students. America is not near the top of the charts in world education achievement. To make America great we have to make America smart and that means more and better education. If we make education free, that investment, which we will get back ten-fold,  will make us smart and then great.
I am going to sport a Make America Smart Again hat and promote CyberEnglish as the tool to help us be smart again. CyberEnglish demands of its students thinking, researching, problem solving, and producing; not twits who can only handle 140 characters. If we are going to make America great again, we have to make America smart again. It’s all about education, stupid.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Willnot by James Sallis

Willnot by James Sallis is a poetic and lyrically written novel. It is a ballet of words that flow from action to philosophy, (“Why are we here, Stephen?” Doc asks a patient) to memories through dreams and then back through the course again. It is stream of consciousness, non-sequiturs, flashes from here and there, connected by the poetic prose and some fabulous puns sprinkled ever so masterfully. Road signs: “Caution Church,” Fiends are Forever,” This Property is Pasted,” “Watch for Falling Crocks,” a license plate in Texas: RVLTN, Revolution or Revelation? And my favorite “Jesus Saves with the first ‘s’ of ‘saves’ to Jesus Raves.” Is Jesus the subject of adjective? I’m always misreading road signs to my amusement and those in the car. It is a delightful and a fun and an addictive read. Wish there were more of it.
Lamar Hale, a doctor, and his partner, Richard, the “schoolmarm,” an English teacher, live in Willnot, a rural town. They have a cat named Dickens. Death is all around them since some of the doctor’s patients die; that’s what happens at the end of life. Richard’s student pass and fail; that’s what students do; and administrators forget they were once teachers. This is about life, real life; and death is part of real life as is schooling. The novel is filled with full tilt characters who are just “passing through” and those who “just keep moving.” Willnot is like a circus town as folks come and go with and without fanfare. A mass grave has been discovered; soldiers who are snipers from undeclared wars pass through; an FBI agent comes through on assignment and then finds it a good place for leisure time; truckers have accidents and die in the hospital; others come to the hospital and recover; students have physicals, ancestors come home to die. Lamar dreams of the past as he remembers his dad; sits by a dying man who has come home to his ancestral Haversham home and other ghosts of the past to help him with the here and now.
Over dinner every night, sometimes in their “periodic shutdowns” which meant no television, no radio, and no newspapers for twenty four hours, Lamar and Richard review the day’s events and bring it all into perspective as any dinner should. Each learns much from the other, but they learn more from those whose paths they cross during the day. These ramblings of Sallis are about the business of living and letting live that is a metaphor for all of us to follow in the living of life. As always parts of the past are integral in the present and eventually the future as stories are shared between the two. Stories are what we are all about and understanding those stories helps make our lives understandable. The threads of life are woven magically by Sallis and help create a most beautiful web resembling life; a thing we are all passing through and also seem to be strays in, trying to discover why we are here.
I think I’ll read this rich literary event again. And what’s with the title? O joy, oh frabjous day.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Presumption of Guilt by Archer Mayor


Presumption of Guilt by Archer Mayor is the latest installment of Joe Gunther and his special crimes unit in Vermont. The special unit is a unique collection of characters. Joe has finally made his relationship with Beverly Hillstrom, the ME public and it is hot, the gloves and the masks come off; Deputy Lester Spinney’s son, David, is now a cop allowing each to become more close with the other; and Willy Kunkle, a former NYC cop now in VT has settled down and has begun a family with his fellow cop, Sam. He brings his own unique brand of oddness and ways to the group with his observations and behavior. His most bizarre behavior is that he has hired Dan Kravitz to circumvent the law by having Dan break into houses to find information and evidence when procedure is too cumbersome. Dan Kravitz brings his local craziness to the story.  It is of course his actions that upset the whole applecart, otherwise why have them in the story? They even so far as to mock television cop shows when it comes to the speed of DNA results and other time consuming practices, like getting a search warrant. It adds to the tension and cowboyness of Willy from NYC. There is more humanity in this new addition to the Joe Gunther series.
This is a mystery that demonstrates how the past can come back to bite you in the ass, especially when everything from the past was done in the wrong way. Old gangsters have gone into another direction of seeming legitimacy, like the Kennedys and Rockefellers only to be dragged back to the sewer from which they came.
The body of Hank Mitchell has been found in cement poured forty years ago when the Yankee nuclear plant was built. He was killed and dumped at the pour out of convenience forty years ago. He was eliminated because he wanted to do the right thing and was in the way. This event during the deconstruction of said now defunct plant has opened old wounds and has made the discovery of his body an inconvenience to some. A group of people now in their sixties has had their lives upset with more murder. Incompetence has been renewed after forty years. These old guys mess it up thinking they still have it, but don’t. It is a clash of generations as always.
There are a number of familial themes examined in this tale. David Spinney is dragged into it, which provides his father some good teachable moments. In another part of the story, Dan Kravitz has involved his daughter, Sally, in his bizarre schemes. Here, too, there is an important realization about dad. Hank Mitchell’s family has some real important moments as they discovered that their dad was murdered and didn’t just run away, as many believed. This changes a lot of things for all of them. Even our curmudgeon, Willy shows signs of humanity as he takes extra precautions to safe guard his own child from what he thinks may be danger, causing his wife to see the sweeter side of him, which he reminds her is not real, but is. These glimpses into familial relationship add perfect humanity.
Comic relief comes from the exchanges between Joe and his NH counterpart, as they have to collaborate a bit in the case. Joe crosses the Connecticut River into NH, “Live, Freeze, or Die,” only to be insulted by his NH counterpart about the socialistic state of Vermont. Their exchanges are hilarious. It assures us that cops do have a sense of humor.
This is more than just another mystery; it is a tale about family, love, trust, and collegiality with murder in the background. This is a great series and I look forward to the next thriller.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Quiet Part IV


Mattie couldn’t have kids and that put a strain on the two of them. She was a gardener, a planter, and the fact that she couldn’t have children depressed her tremendously and slowly things between the two of them began to unwind. She began drinking and that was the beginning of the end for the two of them.
In the meantime, Sarah fell in love, married and moved into her own home with her new husband, Jake, who was also a doctor. Sarah was a pediatrician and Jake was a dermatologist. As Sarah turned thirty-three, she became pregnant with their first child. They were following the millennial adage, baby free until thirty-three. Within three years she had their second son. Kurt was over the moon in love with his grandsons and spent as much time with them as he could while their parents worked.
Things were not good with Mattie and her drinking continued to be a problem. Kurt would pour out the bottles but she replaced them and hid them well. Kurt gave up trying to help her since she didn’t want help. Another marriage had gone sour and Kurt was beside himself as he began spending more time at work and at Sarah’s house with his grandsons at the end of the day and on weekends.
The night of the fire began like any other evening. Kurt would come home after picking up his grandsons and delivering them home. He would make dinner for Mattie and himself. Rarely did Mattie actually eat with him since she was either not hungry or too drunk to eat. By this time, Hope was living alone after her mom died. Hope had lost all of her hope for life and was a mess. She was financially ruined and faced eviction from her home. Whatever happened to her trust fund was a mystery. She barged in on Kurt and a semi passed out Mattie while Kurt was cooking dinner. Hope was in need of money and figured Kurt owed it to her since he hadn’t paid her money for child support. Kurt reminded her that she didn’t cash his checks and that he wasn’t going to give her money now. She demanded the money and Mattie in a sudden fit of anger threw her glass of whiskey at Hope, but instead of hitting her she hit the stove with the open flames. There was an explosion that knocked everyone down and Kurt was able to get Mattie out while Hope crawled out on her own. The house was a total loss. Mattie went to the hospital and Hope went home. Kurt went to Sarah’s house. Kurt put Mattie into a recovery program and Hope moved into a smaller apartment in town, not too far from where she lived when she first met Kurt as a lithe dancer in college, the flowering dogwood. There was irony in there some place, but Kurt left it alone. Kurt divorced Mattie and provided her with adequate financial support. He didn’t feel any obligation to Hope, but did provide her with a small, a very small stipend to help her through each month. He was done with the two of them and was now back in his rebuilt house living alone and happier for it. While lying on the couch in the living room after his grandsons had gone home, he slowly fell asleep in the quiet except for the tick tock of the clock and thinking about his long term plans to take his grandsons to the national parks camping that summer and then to their return at the end of the summer to the boys’ new little sister.
(the end)

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Quiet Part III


Hugo’s business had taken off. He now had very lucrative and large projects at homes of DC’s politicians. Actually these projects began when Kurt worked for Hugo years ago. Kurt had brought botanical knowledge to the job and provided expert advice about what to plant and not to plant in this area. Keeping everything local and staying away from invasive species, the jobs Hugo did won praise and acclaim because the newly planted and landscaped properties received great accolades from the press and floral groups in the area. Because the politicians needed that kind of good press about their actions, Hugo’s landscaping business exploded. Now that Kurt was back, the sky was the limit and he was very happy about his plans for the summer.
At the middle school graduation, some of Kurt’s former students returned for the ceremonies and in their exchanges they discovered he was going to be working with Hugo and the landscaping business. The former students had heard of this new “landscaping” phenomenon and asked if Kurt might get them jobs for the summer because their parents were haranguing them about getting a job for the summer. Kurt was happily surprised and told them he would speak to Hugo about it. Hugo loved the idea especially as it meant he was now hiring local kids to do work locally using local plants. It was a win win win scenario.
That summer was the happiest Kurt had been in years. He even started butting heads with his mother-in-law and didn’t care about the new tension in the house, that he didn’t own or choose. Hope had gone from lover back to being a daughter, then mother, while lover was a thing of the past. He was now back in his plant realm and was rising from the ashes to regain himself. He knew his marriage was on the rocks and would soon be over since his mother-in-law made it her goal to force him out of her daughter’s life.
By the end of the summer, Kurt was back in his old apartment building but in a different apartment. The formal divorce was just a matter of time and Kurt let it unwind naturally since he couldn’t fight his mother-in-law who had more money than God. The big issue was of course, Sarah who was only three.
The landscaping business thrived and Kurt was helping design some of the most valuable property in America owned by some of the most powerful people in America. Because of this, television shows featuring the powerful owners of these homes spent a great deal of time in their yards speaking more about their property than about politics. When Kurt and Hugo came to discuss the landscaping plans for these powerful people, meetings were halted so the owners could spend time with Kurt and Hugo. Soon Kurt and Hugo had more work than they could handle. They were celebrities in their own right. There was a waiting list for their services.
Kurt quit teaching and Hugo made Kurt a full and equal partner in the business. Kurt was a made man. He could now take on his mother-in-law. He hired a lawyer and began fixing the wrongs done to him in the divorce. It wasn’t about money since Hope never cashed any of his child support checks; it was about equal custody and access to Sarah. Now Kurt not only had money, he had the support of some of the most powerful people in the world backing him. Soon he was seeing Sarah more now than he had before and in and on his own terms and in his new home, not too far from where she lived with her mom. She could ride her bike between homes if she wanted to.
Hope started looking and acting a lot more like her mom since she stopped dancing and never worked a day in her life. Hope was no longer the lithe and active woman Kurt remembered and fell in love with. She looked a decade older than he did. That sparkle was gone and she was old and tired before her time. Sarah wasn’t happy at her mom’s house and spent more time with Kurt than with Hope. Hope started drinking more and Sarah would tell Kurt about how when she came home from school her mom would be passed out in bed, so would come over to Kurt’s house and be there when Kurt came home from work to have dinner after she did her homework. The mother-in-law wasn’t around much either, as the family money making business began losing money and required her attention more and more. Sarah was spending more time at Kurt’s house and by high school lived there and visited her mom on weekends if sports didn’t interfere. Sarah played soccer, basketball, and softball. Kurt was there for her and since the business was doing so well and they had hired a cadre of workers to attend to all of the daily work. Kurt was designing the landscape jobs, Hugo who was older was working part time and a couple of former students of Hugo’s were now running the day-to-day business of the operations.
In his time off, Kurt would take Sarah on summer camping trips to the national parks and he would spend his time enjoying the fauna and the beauty of the parks. Kurt was a happy camper.
When Sarah went off to college, Kurt was alone and within a short time met a woman who would become his second wife. He met Mattie at a flower show in DC. She was representing a vendor that provided some local exotics. Her company became a supplier for Kurt’s business and before long he invited her for dinner. Mattie was spending more time at Kurt’s. They were married in the summer after Sarah’s sophomore year at college. Sarah liked Mattie and Mattie loved Sarah.
In the meantime, Hope’s parent’s business was losing money and sinking faster than the Titanic. By the time Sarah graduated, her grandparents were broke and living with Hope. Kurt ignored Hope’s appeal for help. Even Sarah shunned her mom as she began medical school in Maryland. After Hope’s dad committed suicide, she and her mother became recluses. Sarah finished medical school and became a pediatrician. Kurt’s business was thriving, as was his second marriage.
(to be continued)

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Quiet Part II


“We have to stop meeting like this.” Cowgirl said to Kurt, who was nursing a beer, when she came up to him a week later at that same bar. “I’m ravenous, let’s get some food.” She announced. She downed the water sitting on the bar.
“Let me cook you dinner.” Kurt suggested.
“You cook, too.” She gleefully responded. “Wow, Okay, cowboy, but I’m not a meat eater.”  She coyly replied as her hand found her way to his crotch and she giggled again and said, “I do make exceptions, though.”
Again Kurt left the change of a ten on the bar and they ambled out.
They stopped at the market on the way to Kurt’s house and picked up fixings for dinner. They picked up a salmon fillet and some asparagus. Kurt had the rest of the ingredients he needed at home. He put the salmon on a bed of spinach covered with some halved cherry tomatoes and sliced onions in a wine and vegetable stock in a baking dish and cooked it at 400 degrees for thirty minutes. He quick steamed the asparagus just as the salmon was cooked and cooling. He served that with previously made cucumber and tomato and red onion salad in red vinegar. Cowgirl was impressed and appreciative and she was ravenous in more ways than one that night.
As they were eating, Kurt discovered her name was Hope, and she learned his name as well. Hope was a dance major for no reason at all except she liked dancing. Kurt came from money, but not enough that he didn’t have to work, but he did for a local landscaper so he could get practical knowledge for his theoretical knowledge in his botany classes. His parents were not happy he was working because they feared it would interfere with his studies. Hope on the other hand didn’t work and would never work a day in her life. She was a trust fund baby. She was rolling in money and would for the rest of her life; she thought or was made to believe. Kurt didn’t see this as a red flag, why should he? He should have is what he learned later.
Kurt shared his dreams with Hope about working in the forests of the national parks. She shared her experiences of visiting the national parks with her uncle and aunt, and not with her parents who were busy making money so she wouldn’t have to work. Her folks traveled first class to the best places in the world, while her uncle and aunt preferred camping in the national parks and took Hope because they didn’t have children. She didn’t have dreams. She was a sad hopeless child.
During the last two years of college, they lived together, and Hope was still dancing, but was neither interested nor involved with Kurt’s landscaping or even concerned with his dreams. Instead of applying for national park service, Kurt found a science-teaching job nearby and soon, Hope was pregnant. Her dancing career was over, but then she never had plans for one, so she wasn’t disappointed. Her parents were ecstatic and so happy at the prospect of becoming grandparents. All of a sudden her mom was in her life like never before. Either the mom was at their apartment or they were at her house in the Virginia suburbs during the pregnancy. Before Kurt knew it he was sucked into their family and saw little of his own. One day when Kurt came home from his menial job, which he was growing to hate, Hope told him she and her mom found the cutest little house in Virginia for them to move into. Kurt and Hope had never spoken about this move nor of getting a house. This was her mom’s idea and she did it because she could and just assumed Kurt would go along with it or didn’t care if Kurt liked it or not. Once they moved in, Kurt had a bad commute each day and was getting less and less happy. Every day he came home, Hope’s mom was there and the house was changing into something he didn’t recognize. As Hope got into her last trimester, Hope’s mom turned from a constant visitor to a permanent fixture in the guest room. Kurt was living with his wife and mother-in-law. Kurt had done his job; he had gotten Hope pregnant. He wasn’t needed anymore. The last time Kurt and Hope were alone together was when she gave birth to Sarah. After Sarah was born, Kurt was looking in from the outside as his mother-in-law took over everything.
Kurt started coming home late as he found himself stopping at his watering hole on the way home, where he ran into his old boss, Hugo, from the landscaping business where he worked during college. Hugo was shocked to see him still in town and asked about what happened to his national park plans. Kurt explained how he got a woman pregnant and was now a middle school science teacher so far from his dreams he forgot what they were. Hugo, too, had his problems as his son was not interested in the landscape business and Hugo’s business was struggling. As the two continued talking Hugo asked, “Hey would you like to come back and work with me during the summer?” Kurt immediately declined but after another beer, turned to Hugo and told him that the idea might be good since he realized being in the house all summer with three generations of women might not be healthy for him. He told Hugo he would and maybe they should start as soon as school let out which was in a month. Hugo suggested some work on the weekends since spring had already offered him good contracts that he was afraid he couldn’t fulfill.
Kurt wasn’t sure if it was the extra beer or the idea of rejoining Hugo that made his return home so much more enjoyable since the birth of his daughter. Kurt ate alone because the women ate at the regular time and he wasn’t home. His mother-in-law said they had to keep a schedule for the sake of the baby and the mother. All the fun of bathing the baby, feeding the baby from extracted breast milk, changing diapers and calming a crying baby had ben taken away from Kurt by his mother-in-law. It was then that Kurt realized how unhappy he was and was elated at the prospect of rejoining forces with Hugo and being out of this mad house in the summer. That weekend he began to retake his life back when he rejoined Hugo.
(to be continued)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Quiet Part I


As he lay there on the couch in the absolute quiet, except for the constant tick tock of the clock, he reflected on the fact that this was the time he liked best. The outside interferences were silent; rain and snow do that. This time it was snow. As Kurt sat and celebrated the quiet, his attention to it made him wander off the reservation. All of a sudden his stomach was making noises and his head was swimming in it all. ‘It all’ being the operative phrase as he had to recover from a burned down house and women. The last was of course the herculean task. The former merely a bump in the road, a road that ain’t paved. Suffice it to say the women were instrumental in the burned down house.  An ex and a future ex got into a heated argument in the kitchen during Kurt’s preparation of dinner, which involved alcohol and fire. Kurt had decided to stay at his daughter Sarah’s house while his home was being rebuilt, enjoy his grandsons, and savor the renewed quiet of his life.
Kurt thought short term, never long term.  It’s how he got here. So where is here?
Kurt loved to cook. He loved to cook for a woman, to share a fine meal, and then to share his bed. It was his way of seduction. He was good at it, too good perhaps. Kurt met his ex this way. She a dance major and he was a science major studying botany. He wanted to get into forestry and work in national parks. Instead he became a middle school science teacher teaching about exploding volcanoes, balls rolling down chutes, and mixing chemicals to clear out a room in seconds.  Occasionally he’d take the students on field trips to the woods to look at trees and identify them, but it was more of a hassle to do that then not. Field trips sucked because of all the paperwork and supervision of middle schoolers. So much for his dreams.
She was lithe, beautiful, and reminded him of the flowering dogwood. That she was from Virginia was apt he thought. He had to explain that the state flower and tree of Virginia was the flowering dogwood. This should have been a clue to him, but it wasn’t since he wasn’t really interested in her mind. That was another mistake; always make the mind the most important thing he would learn. Rules were good if you followed them he always reminded himself after each mistake from a broken rule.
He first saw her dancing at the local bar that had live music almost every night and was intrigued with how her body moved, she was hypnotizing. At a break in the music she came to the bar and stood next to him. She ordered water without ice. She chugged the water and ordered another and left a dollar on the bar. “May I buy you the next drink, Miss?” Kurt inquired. She looked at him, smiled and said, “Maybe another evening, cowboy.” After she chugged that one, she put down the glass, smiled again at Kurt and left. He was intrigued, Cowboy?
It was two weeks before he saw her again. He returned to that bar regularly hoping to see her again.  He had pretty much given up hope he would ever see her again, but went to the club anyway and was pleasantly surprised to see her dancing beautifully on the dance floor when he walked in. He went to the bar ordered a beer and stood there just staring at her and imagining what it would be like to be in bed with her. While she was dancing, she looked over at him, smiled, turned away for effect, made some pretty moves and then turned again and while staring straight at him walked over to him in the middle of the song and asked, “Buy a girl a drink, cowboy?” Kurt ordered water without ice. “You remembered, good.” She said never taking her eyes off his. When the water came, she consumed it in one gulp and handed the glass to Kurt who handed in to the bartender and said, “Do it again.” They never broke eye contact. After she downed the second one in two gulps, she asked, “Do you dance?” “No, not really.” Kurt sighed. “Hmm, alright, let’s go to your place and I’ll teach you.” She offered. “Okay.” Smiled Kurt as he left the change of a ten on the bar and they left, hand in hand. “Do you have white wine at your place?” She asked. “Yes, I do.” He replied. “Good.” She purred.
When they arrived at his apartment, she asked for that glass of wine and to look at his CD’s. She put on the sultry Bill Withers, took the wine and put her arm around his neck, drew him in and said, “Let me show you how to dance.” She moved her body against his and they danced. As she sipped and they danced, she giggled and said, “I see you like me.” Their pelvises were touching and it was obvious he liked her. She put the glass of wine down and she had them naked in minutes. She was ravenous, all consuming. She was all over him and they made love all night long, here, there, and finally ended up in bed. As the sun began to rise, she rolled over, gave him a kiss and said she had an early dance class. “That was fun, let’s do that again, soon, Okay cowboy?” Exhausted and in disbelief with what had just happened, he barely uttered or moaned, “Sure.”
As she was leaving, he mustered enough strength to ask, “What’s your name?”
“Cowgirl.” And the door slammed shut.  He was left with just the tick tock of his clock and his own inner peace.
(to be continued)